Homophobic slurs have been a long-running situation in the sports community and they continue to happen despite the progress of the LGBT sports movement. The comments are tossed at seemingly anyone and often come in the heat of a sporting event. The slurs can be sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or aimed at anyone who is considered inferior.
The question then becomes, is it OK if the person using the slur apologizes? Does it become a teaching moment?
The Federal Triangles Soccer Club is a long-running LGBT-based soccer club in the Washington area. During the summer season, members run their own league, the Summer of Freedom League. It’s considered a safe space for LGBT players and allies.
During the other three seasons, members of the Federal Triangles are on teams that play in predominately straight soccer leagues in the area. The leagues can consist of either women’s, men’s or co-ed teams.
District Sports is a straight-based nonprofit that provides recreational leagues and tournaments to about 6,300 athletes at 14 separate locations throughout the area. Through targeted fundraising and proceeds from league fees, they distribute tens of thousands of dollars in support to other service-minded nonprofits.
Last weekend at a nine-on-nine men’s match at Bell Field, in the heat of the moment, a straight player called a gay player from the Federal Triangles a maricon, which translates to faggot.
It happened during a foul-filled first half and the referee approached the captain of the straight team at halftime. The straight player stepped forward and admitted that he had used the slur. In this District Sports league, there are four Federal Triangles teams and six straight teams.
The following statement was issued by the gay player who was called the derogatory term.
“At the core of good sportsmanship is fairness, respect and a sense of fellowship with your competitors. Yelling homophobic or racial slurs is far from good sportsmanship and has no place in sports. I am utterly disappointed by the opposing team’s display of homophobia last weekend, yet I can’t say I’m surprised. Homophobia, racism, transphobia, misogyny and discrimination are pervasive in sports, and throughout American society for that matter. The current political climate fueled by Trump’s hate has made homophobia that much worse, leading to skyrocketing hate crimes. It’s everyone’s responsibility to end hate and discrimination, in sports and elsewhere.”
Zach Strauss, director of operations for District Sports, has investigated the incident and found that the player attempted to apologize at the match.
“I have been on the receiving end of that word myself and I hope that this incident will result in people learning from each other,” Strauss says. “The player understands that the word was unacceptable and he seems contrite.”
A statement was also released by the Federal Triangles Soccer Club through team president Adrienne Morris.
“FTSC supports many teams throughout the Washington area and it is uncommon for other teams to resort to hateful speech. However, gay slurs are still sometimes used during sports. Whether it is directed at a player or used without homophobic intent, reprehensible language should never be used. Our players do not tolerate it, and we expect other teams to reject any use of slurs, whether homophobic, sexist or racist. We will continue to support our players and ensure that slurs have no place in sports. When the offending player apologizes, we accept the apology and recognize it is an important step toward understanding how language matters.”
Further inquiries revealed that the straight player who used the slur stated he did not know he was playing against a gay team. OK, but does that make it any less offensive?